Gila Valley celebrates Pioneer Days

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Randy Hawkins leads a troupe of youngsters along the parade route for the Pioneer Days festivities in Pima on Saturday. 

By Jon Johnson

PIMA – The annual celebration put on by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commemorates Brigham Young and early Mormon pioneers’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah on July 24, 1847. In Graham County, the festival has grown to include LDS pioneers who settled in the Gila Valley as well. This year, Ross Bryce served as Parade Marshal. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Parade Marshal Ross Bryce waves to the crowd.

Friends and family came from far and wide to descend upon the Gila Valley to take part in the festivities, which kicked off Friday night with a variety show at the David M. Player Center for the Arts and the annual Pioneer Days Rodeo in Pima. The evening’s festivities then culminated with a family dance at the Pima LDS Stake Center. 

Saturday morning began with the Pioneer Days 5K, followed by pickleball, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, and a volleyball tournament. Folks also enjoyed touring the Eastern Arizona Museum and seeing the presenters during its 60th-anniversary celebration held in conjunction with Pioneer Days.

As dusk neared, the floats so carefully prepared by local wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and families got into position behind Dan Hinton Accommodation School to begin the parade. 

Attendees lined the streets of Pima and cheered as the various floats “rolled forth” with the themed entries. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: An attendee gives his best shot at the dunk tank.

After the parade, the throngs of people gathered at Pima High School’s Edd Hubbard Field to enjoy a smoked barbecue dinner and other treats and to spend the evening with family and friends. There were fun activities for the children to keep them busy until dark and included traditional pioneer games as well as a bouncy house race, roping challenge, a dunk tank, and more. 

Once darkness fell over the land, the night sky was lit up with a fireworks show so close that some were left with singed shirts. The fireworks were perjured by the “Mayor of Eden” Clint Colvin, who oversaw the ignition with Brent Herbert and the Pima Fire Department. 

Click here to see a photo album from the event. 

The following are the results of some of the weekend’s sports contests. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The event culminated with an impressive fireworks show.

3-on-3 Basketball

The championship team in the open division consisted of Ryan Johnson, Ryan Thomas, Chad Daley, and Jordan Davis. 

Contributed Photo: Open Division Basketball champions

The Runner-up team included Dustin Donaldson, Justin Park, Justin Kartchner, and Jarrett Kartchner. 

14-17 Division: The championship team included Bronson Stringfellow, Braden Bryce, and Chad Johnson. 

Contributed Photo:

The Runner-up team included Conner Tefteller, Isaac Palmer, Rhett Lunt, and Dylan Riney.

13 and under Division: The championship team included Hayden Larson, Eric Legarda, Trae Gaines, and Christopher Palma. 

Contributed Photo:

The Runner-up team included Elijah Titla, Colt Daley, Boston Echols, and Luke Tefteller. 


The championship team in the A-league Division included T-Mack McMillan, Kamarle Hiapo, Joe Kouliakamoa, Nani Hiapo, Kahea Hiapo, Jeni Hiapo, and B.J. Hiapo. 

Contributed Photo: A-league volleyball champions

The Runner-up team included Kai Hekekia, Daisy Motes, Kelly Motes, Chelcy Chatwin, Danica Motes, Kyle Standage, and Matthew Motes. 

Contributed Photo: A-league volleyball runner-ups

The championship team in the B-league Division included Ryen House, Laura House, Mary Johnson, Alli Johnson, Mark Johnson, Brandon Bingham, and Kailee Bingham. 

Contributed Photo: B-league volleyball champions

The Runner-up team included Bradyn Braun, Tyler Lawson, Dustin Braun, Megan Knight, Shiann Armstrong, Brandi Morris, and Sally Evans. 

Contributed Photo: B-league volleyball runners-up

The championship team in the C-league Division included Jaxson Cummard, Kaci Palmer, Raylee Fish, Presley Cummard, Hudson Cummard, Cambria Wakefield, and Maddux Sloan. 

Contributed Photo: C-league volleyball champions

The Runner-up team included Shawn Nielson, Levi Palmer, Jayann Palmer, MaryAnn Layton, Haylee Hawkins, and Tyson Hawkins.  

Contributed Photo: C-league volleyball runners-up


Contributed Photo: Contributed Photo: From left, 50 and older mixed doubles champion John and Shawna Bryant; 49 and younger mixed doubles champion Layton and Lucas Johnson; second place, Bridget Preston and Coy Jay Rogers; and third place, LaDawn Click and Mark Smith.

50 and older mixed doubles: John and Shawna Bryant – champions

49 and younger mixed doubles: 1st Place – Renee Layton and Lucas Johnson; 2nd Place – Bridget Preston and Coy Jay Rogers; 3rd Place – LaDawn Click and Mark Smith

49 and younger men’s doubles: 1st Place – Colton Cook and Dallin Ferrin; 2nd Place – Lucas Johnson and Phil Oliver; 3rd Place: Matt Hatch and Ross Nichols

Contributed Photo:

49 and younger women’s doubles: 1st Place – Bridget Preston and LaDawn Click; 2nd Place – Shawna Bryant and Tami Reynolds; 3rd Place – Jennifer Merrel and Marla Romero

Gold Medal 50 & Older: 1st Place Men – Ross Nichols and Matt Hatch; 2nd Place John Bryant and Dave Ridlon; 1st Place Women – Tami Reynolds and Shawna Bryant; 2nd Place – Renee Layton and Cindy Hatch